It's always kinda weird when you take such a dramatic step to change your life even though you have no idea if the moves you want to take afterward will pan out.
Last year I made a choice to step away from MAGFest. As I've written before I was part of a small group of people who would end up making a very dramatic shift in how the festival was presented to the online world. Not that any of us knew that at the time. We just wanted to try something new and different. Thankfully the possibilities behind that were recognized especially in light of how some previous attempts at such ended in a way that some people had a really negative view of people who wanted to work in the same space we did. We also found some groups that wanted to work in a similar vein but were not connected due to various factors. When all of these groups were brought together and were allowed to shine in their own ways there was a power realized that was not there before.
For a time I ran this group. And they were some of the best experiences of my life.
So for me to completely back out was really jarring. Not only to other people but also to myself. Though some of those latter pieces would not be understood till later.
Now admittedly there were a few bits that came about that made me not want to go even before I left my position. Without going into details there were parts that really made me go "Do you fully understand what this festival is about?" What would eventually decide for me was how someone I considered a friend made me want to go "Do you care about me as a fellow human being?"
Prior to this I really wanted to change up how I did things at MAGFest. Some of the work I was doing with the members of MTA (and this was even before MTA was a thing) really started opening my eyes as a creative individual where I could really start presenting my 'voice'. There had been some ideas I had played around with to do that but it was through the photography that made me go "Yes, this is how I can do this."
So originally I wanted to have someone else take over my position as Department Head (for which they have done a fantastic job!) so I could possibly do things that was a bit more aligned to how I wanted to present myself.
When the other factors came about... I saw that alignment wasn't there. So I had to make some choices.
And those choices opened up so many possibilities I didn't know were there before.
So to provide some context these steps were taken while I was still formulating the idea behind Make Them Awesome... and even how to pitch it to the rest of the team.
The first realization that I had made the right choice came about through a conversation with a good friend of mine. They were an integral part of the Music department at MAGFest as well so of course our groups tended to work together.
I admitted to them I watched none of the streams that year.
To which they said "That means you were comfortable in your decision."
That statement made me realize that I needed to continue down the path I wanted to explore.
Not long after that I pitched the idea of Make Them Awesome to the rest of the team. And they were in.
Which is good. Otherwise you probably wouldn't be reading this.
The second realization was how much mental bandwidth it opened up. When I was involved in so much con related activity along with my creative work there wasn't a lot of space left. Now that I've removed so much it's been amazing to think about all the creative ideas we could consider.
Sometimes a few too many ideas. There have been times where I've not been able to go to sleep because of that and ended up not making it to my day job.
The third piece would be around how much time it took up. Skype meetings, chats via Discord or Slack, emails, and of course being on location. It requires a lot. With the changes I was making (I stepped out of staffing San Japan as well) it freed up a lot of time. So much so that I got past most of Con Season and realized I had only taken one vacation day off. I ended up taking the last half of December off because of this.
When I consider how much I had given of myself to these events to see how much I could possibly do when all of that was taken back... it was quite startling.
Not that I regret the time spent on any of this.
Do I miss the people?
Oh yes, quite dearly. I want nothing more than just to hang out, knock back some drinks, and talk about some dumb ass shit.
Do I miss the events?
Not as much. At least in the way I would be there performing certain functions.
I get that in some of the spaces that I and my other creative friends occupy that a con/festival presence is a necessary thing. But after so many years of thinking 'I need to be at X event' especially as part of my creative identity to pull that away especially in such a quick way was something I never thought I'd do. Though now I see it was very much needed.
To be candid I'm not sure if I could 100% quantify my stance to the good creative friends I've made because of these spaces. Writing all of this out I feel like I've gotten most of the way there. But the rest I'm not sure could be understood unless they took the same steps I did. Not that I expect any of them to do so.
With these steps I know this.
I feel free.
I feel free to create. I feel free to inspire. I feel free to fuck up. I feel free to explore. I feel free to teach. I feel free to tell people "Yes, you can do this."
I feel free to be me.
I feel free to kick ass in ways no one will expect.